Copyright is probably the one thing artists worry about most. No one wants to spend all that time creating something totally original just to have someone else come along and steal it and claim it as theirs. This is your baby and you own it, but how can you make sure you hold onto it? How you protect your copyright and what copyright covers is confusing and daunting at first, and you need to know just what it means and how it works.
If you’ve created something original you own the copyright to it. This runs into muddy waters with music as it can be hard to say when a song has been copied or borrowed from, which is why we’ve all seen those high profile copyright cases that leave us all with frowns of confusion. Has it been copied or does it just sound a bit like the original? A song can sound similar to another song without it being a copy because there are only so many notes you can play. If your song sounds a bit like something else that doesn’t mean you’ve stolen from another song, it could just be a coincidence or you may have been influenced by a band or song. If it’s the same, to the point of no doubt, it’s been copied! As mentioned above, it’s muddy waters, but basically, if you have created this song and it’s your original song, you can copyright it.
Many people think copyrighting something you’ve created is a complicated business, and that you have to register it with someone somewhere or email it to yourself to copyright it. You don’t. Your original song is copyrighted to you as soon as you write it down. Sing your new song aloud and anyone can take it and say it’s theirs, but write it down and it’s definitely yours. Simple, right? Well, yes, it really is that simple, but for your own protection, you might not want to leave it at that, just in case someone down the road also just created the same song and wrote it down on the same day. Emailing or mailing it to yourself actually isn’t a bad idea, as you then have proof you created it on and on which day you did this.
When you copyright your song (ie when you create it and write it down) you automatically have the right to reproduce your own work, distribute it, perform it, display it and make further works derived from this one. As we’ve discussed before, when you sign your record deal your label is going to take charge of much of this, but you still hold the rights. Copyright means that this is yours and you can do what you want with it (unless your label says otherwise) and it also means if anyone else wants to use your work they have to have your permission first.
Simply put, you created the song and you own the copyright. You will have to give up some rights to your record label or management, but never give up your copyright.
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